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Britain, as yet neither mature nor a democracy, appears to need its monarch and its mayors

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The rational case against metro mayors ably set out by Richard Hatcher, George Morran and Steve Beauchampé, has been shattered for the writer by the media-feeding chaotic, emotion-led, vicious, counterproductive squabbling in the Labour & Conservative ranks.

Still, evidently, a tribal people, we appear to need the ‘high-profile leadership’ extolled by Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities , largest funders Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Lord Sainsbury) and  Catapult network, established by Innovate UK, a government agency. (see report cover right)

As yet, the announcements made by the West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street, respected even by most opponents of the post, with a business record seen as a guarantee of efficiency, are provoking little dissension.

Dan Jarvis, who is expected to win the Sheffield election becoming Britain’s seventh metro mayor, intends to continue to sit in the House of Commons to work for a better devolution deal and speak for the whole county. (map, regions in 2017)

His desire to stay in parliament while serving as a mayor is thought, by the author of FT View to reflect a recognition that the real authority and power of these positions is limited:

  • The six mayors have no say on how taxes are raised and spent.
  • Outside Greater Manchester, the mayors have little control over health policy.
  • Major spending decisions on transport policy are still taken by central government.

Days after taking office in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s announcement of a new fund to tackle the region’s homelessness problem was backed by ‘a chunk’ of his own mayoral salary.

Andrew Carter points out that England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent, compared with their counterparts in other countries.

FT View describes this extra layer of government as yet merely creating cheerleaders, adding:

“Voices alone will not be enough to shift economic and political power to the regions. England’s mayors need more control. If the government is serious about devolution, the mayors need the powers to match that ambition”.

 

Could well-endowed, unsuborned metro mayors out-perform successive corporate-bound national governments?

 

 

 

 

 

“Grand vanity projects” – HS2

State and local governments want showcase projects and councillors and ministers want “legacies” . . .

The message: the Coalition is delivering on infrastructure

The message: the Coalition is delivering on infrastructure

A reader on holiday in Devon took time off to draw our attention to an article by Liam Halligan, who has a remarkably wide wealth of business experience.

Last week, George Osborne, David Cameron and government ministers were photographed inspecting building projects across the country, wearing hard hats and high-visibility jackets. The message: the Coalition is delivering on infrastructure.

The Treasury published an updated list of over 200 major projects to be completed or started in 2014-15 – infrastructure spending will be £36bn this year, according to Downing Street, up from £15bn in 2013. But since 2010 the national debt has risen from £800bn to over £1,200bn. Government is still borrowing £100bn-plus annually, as it has for five successive years.

overcrowding on trains

Halligan’s view on the HS2 proposal: “What desperately needs addressing isn’t inter-city speed, but massive overcrowding on local commuter lines — not only into London, but Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester too, where passenger numbers have grown faster than those into and out of the capital.

He advocates placing a greater emphasis on cross-country train services. Instead of spending £80bn-plus on the London-Birmingham leg of HS2, there should be investment in the two lines that already run between the two cities. Rather than a marginally quicker service from London to Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield – the cost of which will limit its use largely to business travellers –a world-class and more frequent inter-city links between the great northern cities is needed.

The last word from Halligan: “The UK’s public finances remain in a critical state. Now is the time for cost-effective solutions to genuine problems, not grand vanity projects”